The University of British Columbia's graduate school of journalism has produced a story for the PBS program, Frontline, on electronic waste.
In the course of its travels to Ghana (it also visited India and China), it obtained a hard drive that contained sensitive defence industry contract information from Northrop Grumman. Its revelation has piqued the interest of the FBI.
The documentary (video clip below) was underwritten by a donation from the Mindset Foundation, run by Vancouver-based philanthropist Alison Lawton through a recent $1-million donation. The financing serves as an interesting model for schools and organizations.
It was produced for Frontline by Peter Klein, an Emmy-winning professor at the school who also produces for 60 Minutes. (Disclosure: I am an adjunct professor at the school.)
We are far enough along into Web 2.0 that it ought to be adopting some of the familiar traits of conventional media --- as in circulation figures, readership figures, single-copy figures, overnight ratings, and the like. Ought to, as in starting to, not should be.
Sites themselves are judged by their unique visitors, by the number of pages those visitors view, and by the time they spend there. And it's relatively easy to translate that data into a popularity rating for particular online creators (such ratings are far less precise for either print or broadcast media).
Recently a Gawker site memo surfaced that indicated it gave bonuses depending on page views. Even though the site acknowledged that such measurement is crude and often distorted, it paid more or less to writers whose works were better or lesser read. Essentially, for every 400,000 views, you got $2,000 --- or $5 per 1,000 views, more likely.
PBS' Mark Glaser recently chimed in with an interview with CBSSports.com and how it values loyalty more than anything else. It's at work with Omniture, the company with the powerful Site Catalyst software, to find out how many unique visitors look at individual writers' work. Glaser also suggests organizations should want to gauge interaction with the audience, how much news is broken,
This debate is at an early stage, but somehow in the new environment of fledgling digital business models, something empirical is likely to replace the more subjective determinant of what someone's work is worth.
Mark Glaser, the force behind PBS' MediaShift, delivered a strong speech last week to Arkansas State University on the changing nature of journalism. He posted much of his lecture yesterday and it's instructive reading.
I don't think Glaser makes any new points --- in fact he could have delivered this speech a year or two ago --- but he provides a good summary of the basics in this day of changing journalism.
Among them (with my asides): The audience knows more than the journalist (we find that out every day, it seems), people are in control of their media (much to our dismay at times), anyone can be a creator (usually with good effect), traditional media must evolve or die (yes, yes, we know), the story will get out despite censorship (thankfully true to date), amateurs and professionals should work together (we have to get past some emotional issues first), journalists need to be multiplatform (agreed), and this is a good time (indeed) to be in the craft. His message to graduates is one I share with students when I teach: learn your Web 2.0 and be ready to freelance. The one thing I'd add: In all of the excitement about new techniques, remember the importance of the old technique called writing. Without that, all the tech in the world will not help.